He’s not changed in the slightest as he stands behind the bar in the selfsame dimness common to all my memories of this place, this very place, my home.
But a shaft of pale sunlight catches the side of his face and I can see that yes, he has changed, he who always seemed to me a man of stone, granite hair and obsidian eyes, marble fingers and few if any words.
Many an hour have I sat my New York desk with closed eyes trying to picture him as he stands now, striving to summon words that might capture the wool of his collar, the muscles of his jaw shifting beneath the skin like a foot beneath the bedclothes.
In this shaft I see him as he is, see him as though for the first time, an old man alone in an empty bar.
The longhouse was warm and smoky and the blizzard howled outside. A spitted loin of venison dripped grease into the hissing fire as Massasoit squatted and smoked his new pipe, a gift from the Williams who now sat across from him, draped in a bearskin and shivering uncontrollably.
The Williams was one of the few Europeans that Massasoit trusted. He liked his candor in council, especially how he stood up to the others about their rude behavior and greed.
“So tell me, friend,” said Massasoit, “what you did that enraged them enough to finally cast you out.”
“I called them priest bitches,” said the Williams. “They got up to be mad liars, trying to tie me down.”
The Williams was learning Wampanoag, though his word choices could be both shocking and hilarious. Massasoit suppressed a smile. “Yes, they are liars. We have seen this. But you are not a liar.”
What Pegman Saw: Rhode Island
Roger Williams was a puritan minister who sailed with his wife for the Massachusetts colony in 1631. Upon arrival, he immediately clashed with the colony’s religious leaders, decrying the hypocrisy in the way they dealt with the native peoples. Williams himself treated the Wampanoag fairly, trading English goods for furs and meat. He learned their language and respected them as fellow human beings, equal in stature to Europeans as God’s creatures. He became special friends with Wampanoag Sachem Massasoit. Williams wrote:
Boast not proud English of thy birth & blood Thy brother Indian is by birth as Good. Of one blood God made Him, and Thee & All, As wise, as faire, as strong, as personall. By natures wrath’s his portion, thine no more Till grace his soule and thine in Christ restore Make sure thy second birth, else thou shalt see, Heaven ope to Indian, but shut to thee.
In 1635, the Salem Colonial council grew tired of his arguing and convicted Williams of sedition. They passed a sentence of deportation to be executed as soon as a ship was available.
Williams fled. In the depths of one of the coldest winters in recent memory, this city boy from London, made his escape on foot from Salem. The English settlements at Plymouth and Boston were closed to him, but a Wampanoag hunting party found him and gave him shelter before bringing him safely to Massasoit’s home near present-day Bristol.
Williams founded his own colony soon after, embodying many of the principles that became the guiding forces of the US Constitution.
Xiang kept his eyes on the armored carrier, not wanting to crash into it. It did not have taillights and the oversized tires threw immense amounts of dust into the air. A collision would be more than disastrous.
He risked a glance in the rear-view to check on the minister and the general. Both were dressed in what seemed like ballroom finery, the minister wearing a black silk suit with starched white shirt, the general in a high collar encrusted in golden oak leaves.
The carrier stopped. Xiang put the limousine in park.
The soldiers tumbled out of the carrier and formed an honor guard, weapons held tight to their shoulders.
Xiang got out, went to the minister’s door and opened it.
The general climbed out too, placing his oversized peaked cap squarely on his head.
He walked out into the marigolds, looked around. “Yes,” he said. “This will do.”
In 1958, Deng Xiaoping selected Haibei to be the epicenter of China’s nuclear weapons development efforts, building the Northwest Nuclear Weapons Research and Design Academy based on Soviet designs. The academy was the site of much of China’s early weapons design work, including the development of China’s first atom bomb and first hydrogen bomb. It was also the earliest site for the centralized storage of nuclear weapons.
The fact that it is also the Tibet Autonomous Region was not considered.
Rene gripped the strap of his new sea-bag as he gazed up at the ship. It was bigger than any building he’d seen, a towering wall of riveted steel.
Uncle Juní came up behind and put his hand on his shoulder. “You excited?”
Rene shook his head.
His uncle laughed. “You’re a better man than I, then. My first voyage I was terrified.”
“What were you most scared of?”
“Everything. Seasickness, falling overboard, hurricanes. You name it.” He looked down at his nephew. “But none of it happened. Well, the seasickness, but that’s quite common. Even some old salts get woozy the first few days. Other than that, though, no problems.”
The ship’s whistle blew. Rene hoisted his seabag.
“One other thing,” his uncle said. “Keep your mouth shut. The other sailors will rib you. Let it roll off. Six weeks at sea is a long time.”
Note: I often abstain when the prompt photograph comes from this particular contributor since his prose poems often feature brutal violence against women and sometimes children (always from the point of view of the perpetrator), but every so often I can’t resist poking the bear.